If you get on well, there’s no person better to travel with than a sister. You can share a room and toothpaste. You can talk or stay silent as you want and, perhaps best of all, you don’t have to explain why you find certain things funny. As I have 5 sisters, I think I’m something of an expert and I think I can say with some authority that my oldest sister, Alice, is a the perfect travelling companion. Not only does she quite understand why I want to go to the top of crags, castles and mountains even though I’m terrified of heights, but she only laughs a bit when she sees me crawling between castellations not daring to look at the view we’ve driven a hundred miles to see. And then, in the evenings, you can gossip – always a staple of sisters (see blog for All Souls). So – a week with a sister in la belle France, and my goodness was south west France looking belle last week, is a proper excursion, i.e. one from which you return filled with cakes, wine, postcards, books, bits of old stone (I collect them to remind me of the colour) and enough family chat to keep you going until the next time.
Some people concentrate their researches on facts but actually for a novelist it’s far more important to research for atmosphere. Facts you can get from books or the web. Atmosphere you have to live: breathing the air, battling the wind, climbing the climb, walking the walk, viewing the view (in theory at any rate). At least that’s what I tell my accountant.
My sister also does marvellous silhouettes, which she creates and sells. I’m going to post up some of the Cathar chateaux in due course because she manages to evoke the essential spirit of the place much better than many photographers. In our age of colour, we forget how powerful black on white is.
So, home. Glasgow is not quite Carcassonne or Limoux or Pamiers or Fanjeaux or Puivert or Puilaurens or Montsegur or or or. But it will have to do for the time being. And anyway, if we’d stayed much longer I’d be the size of a house. Sisters are not good for diets. Only with a sister is ‘Oh, go on then,’ always the default answer to the question ‘shall we?’ at the patisserie.